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1980 GMC High Sierra: Attack of the Killer Tomato

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 1999
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Photographers: Tori TellemCole Quinnell

Some women think a dozen long-stemmed red ones are the ultimate devotion-proving gift from a suitor. Others are into diamonds and floor-length furs. Not Melissa Smith of Sandwich, Illinois. When her honey built up this red '80 GMC High Sierra for her, she knew he was hooked.

Mike Brown (the honey) of Plano, Illinois, restored the shortbed over three years. After having built more than a dozen trucks before, Mike decided to stick with the basics on this one and attempted to use all original parts. He works in parts sales for Coffman GMC, so the bits and pieces he needed to restore the tomato of love were literally at his fingertips. Through his company's database, he was able to track down parts at dealers across the nation.

Mike was a little worried at first because shortbeds are becoming more rare and a lot of the GM parts he had in mind for the truck had been discontinued. However, he claims he had no trouble finding anything he needed. He dreamed up the perfect ride for Melissa, punched the needed parts into the computer, and, abracadabra, there they were.

No, those tires don't rub. Nowhere. No way. No how. Mike Brown of Plano, Illinois, has managed to cram 39.5x15x16.50 TSL Super Swampers under all four corners of his '80 GMC High Sierra without a single spot of contact with anything but axles, 16.5x12 Weld wheels, and mud.

Clearly, Mike's a company man: An original GM V-8 resides underhood. The ignition is GM, the steering box is GM, the transmission is GM, the transfer case is GM, and even the dash gauges and seat upholstery are GM.

Mike had a little help from the aftermarket underneath the truck, where an 8-inch Skyjacker suspension lift gives a clear view of the 3/4-ton Dana 44 front and Corporate 14-bolt rear axle. The extra inches also provide room for the giant 39.5-inch TSL Super Swampers around Weld Super Single wheels. Even without any body trimming, Mike swears that those tires do not rub thanks to a 2-inch body lift.

Mike and Michelle take the truck out on dates with them on weekends, and it has earned them a growing batch of trophies in show-'n'-shine competitions around Illinois-maybe it's the mostly original parts, maybe it's the obvious time and effort Mike put into the truck, maybe it's the warm glow of love...nah, it's gotta be that Mike-painted, tomato-red color.

During the buildup, which he did himself, Mike was more than thankful that he works in sales for GM parts. A lot of the parts he needed had been discontinued, but his company has a parts locater that can search all the GM dealerships in the U.S. for discontinued parts. Mike was able to track down everything he needed, and with a little extra help from the aftermarket, he put together this DuPont Performance Red gift for his girlfriend, Melissa Smith of Sandwich, Illinois.
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